Breast cancer screening cuts mortality by half

Cancer Research UK

Breast cancer screening in East Anglia has reduced deaths from the disease by nearly half, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer1 today.

In East Anglia, being screened on the NHS breast cancer screening programme reduces breast cancer deaths by 48 per cent.

This is one of the first of a series of studies assessing the impact of the National screening programme. It shows the National Screening Programme in the area is at least consistent to previous estimates found at trials conducted before the full programme was put into place in 19892.

Professor Stephen Duffy, lead researcher and Cancer Research UK's professor of cancer screening, said: "The results of our study showed that the NHS breast cancer screening programme has been even more effective at saving lives than we predicted. This is the strongest evidence yet that screening programmes like this save lives.

"We hope to collect data from other regions in the future, allowing us to compare programmes across the UK, bringing the best practices to areas that aren't performing as well."

Julietta Patnick, Director, NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, said: "The New Year marks the 20th anniversary of the introduction of breast screening in England. Huge strides have been made over the past two decades and today, more women than ever before are surviving breast cancer, many of whom have benefited from early detection through routine breast screening.

"It is important we constantly evaluate the effectiveness of the programme and I am delighted that these latest findings show that breast screening can save lives. I hope the study will encourage women to make an informed choice to accept their invitation for screening."

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: "Survival rates for breast cancer have been improving for more than 20 years - eight out of ten patients now survive more than five years. This is partly due to our very effective screening programme. Here is more proof that screening works - our breast, cervical and now also bowel cancer screening programmes are certainly effective."

"This study is proof that screening really does save lives. The Government has committed to extending the screening programme in England by 2012 so that more women benefit. Women aged 47 to 73 will be invited so that every woman will have their first screening before the age of 50. Cancer Research UK is working to get even more people into screening programmes and to encourage everyone invited to participate - support for our Screening Matters campaign will help do this."

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.

Notes to Editor

  1. "A case control study of the impact on breast cancer mortality of the East Anglian breast screening programme." Allgood et al. (2007) British Journal of Cancer.
  2. Screening for Breast Cancer in England: Past and Future, Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer Screening, 2006 (NHSBSP Publication no 61)

About Screening Matters

Cancer screening saves lives. Thousands of women are alive today thanks to breast and cervical screening, while the new bowel cancer screening programme for men and women has the potential to save thousands more. But we know that even more lives could be saved.

Cancer Research UK is working towards getting the UK Governments to commit to:

  • Screen at least three million more people over the next five years
  • Reduce the variation in screening across the UK
  • Reach out to people eligible for screening who aren't taking part
  • Provide the best possible screening programmes through funding, staffing and measuring success

Pledge your support on our website.

British Journal of Cancer

The BJC’s mission is to encourage communication of the very best cancer research from laboratories and clinics in all countries. Broad coverage, its editorial independence and consistent high standards have made BJC one of the world's premier general cancer journals. Visit the British Journal of Cancer homepage.

About Cancer Research UK

  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
  • Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.
  • For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit our homepage.